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National Ag Week – A Good Week to Say “Thanks”

University of Minnesota Extension, Stearns County News
March 22, 2017         
Source:  Dan Martens, Extension Educator
University of Minnesota Extension
Stearns, Benton & Morrison Counties

National Ag Week – A Good Week to Say “Thanks”
By Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension

FOLEY, Minn. (03/17/17) — It seems good during National Ag Week March 19-25 is a good opportunity to acknowledge that farmers in our state, and our nation have a long and significant history of taking care of the land while making a living and providing food, fiber, renewable energy and other resources for lots of other people.

Most folks know that George Washington was dedicated to studying agriculture and doing research with his farms. Thomas Jefferson was known to have a similar interest in agriculture. History takes us back to the Native Americans who had already learned something about growing maize (corn), making use of other food resources, and shared their knowledge and experience with European settlers.

I also found some interesting reading in an Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom article. Some comments included: “George Washington is known as the father of our country, but he could also be called the Father of American Agriculture. His great love was agriculture, and he was happiest when conducting agricultural experiments on his farm at Mt. Vernon.”

In his farming efforts, Washington soon realized that the monoculture of growing tobacco continuously was wearing out the land. He introduced wheat on the farm and eventually developed a rotation of 7 crops. He felt that having more financial resources meant an obligation to experiment with different crops and practices on his farm for the benefit of others who could not afford to take the risk of trying new things. That’s generally the philosophy behind the land grant university systems together with what we used to call experiment stations and now call research and outreach centers and Extension. This is a system for making a public investment in doing credible field trials to sort out varieties and practices that are more likely to be useful with less risk for farmers to adopt. A significant about of University research is done with cooperating farmers; and farmers and ag business do a lot of useful field trials also.

Washington believed that agriculture was the first and most important occupation of the new nation and a way for America to establish itself in the world. It could be said that eating is still pretty basic to everything else we do. Washington seems to have been grounded in things that counted, both for the country and its agriculture.

It’s interesting over time to see how “what goes around, comes around.” Ideas like cover crops, healthy soil, building soil organic matter, and others have been around for a long time. Washington realized cropping practices were taking a toll or organic matter in the soil. Soils on the east coast, especially in the south east were more vulnerable to wear with long warm growing seasons and lots of rain. That process takes a little more time as we move north, but it’s still real. Wind and water erosion take a more obvious toll on the land.

We learn from one generation to the next that taking care of the land counts. This is a key to taking care of water resources also. Through the years the lessons are applied to different circumstances, crops, equipment and technology, weather patterns, weeds and pests, economic realities, needs and opportunities.

And among all the other things farmers they try to take care of, they work to make a living, and to make the best of life with their families and communities.

It’s a good week to say “Thanks!”


Daniel Martens
Extension Educator, Ag Production Systems
(320) 968-5077
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